Demand Grows For Tiny Phone Chargers Using ‘New Silicon’

A tiny phone, tablet and laptop charger, the first to use gallium nitride rather than silicon chips, has seen sales four times greater than predicted [Editor’s note: the link may be paywalled], prompting the Chinese company behind it to try to ramp up production. From a report: Anker, a Shenzhen-based company that specialises in computer and mobile phone accessories, unveiled a line of chargers using gallium nitride (GaN), which conducts electrons 1,000 times faster than silicon, in January. The use of GaN allowed Anker to virtually halve the size of its charger, while retaining full-speed charging. Another Chinese-owned company, RAVPower, has also started using GaN in its chargers. “Silicon limits have been pushed almost to the extreme,” said Steven Yang, co-founder and chief executive of Anker. “But GaN is at [the next] phase.”

The introduction of the new semiconductor into the consumer market came after a series of military and other commercial applications, in everything from electric vehicles to radar systems. Raytheon, the US defence group, said in 2017 that it had spent $300m researching GaN since 1999. Like some of its peers, it uses the material in its active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, which are able to detect stealth fighters at long range. “Once the power technology is out of the box it will be widely adopted around the world and that means everyone can produce power-switching modules,” said Stephen Bryen, a former deputy undersecretary of defence and senior fellow at the American Center for Democracy. “And that is what is used in the radars — that’s the nexus between commercial and military use.”

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